March 18th, 2010

Bike

14 and 15

Whilst I was at Dunedin's Octagon, where I was promoting the Fringe Festival (if any reader is in New Zealand you should come) I managed to read, so I can add Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and Holes by Louis Sacher to my books list. So that is now 15 books for the year, and 4014 pages. My page count is slightly low because I am having to read adolescent books for the teaching college. It is ironic that my wife belgatherial has all these books because of her MA in Children's Literature, and I will be teaching children literature but don't know a great deal...
kiki dreams, spidergirl

Book 29: Distance by Ewan Morrison.

Book 29: Distance.
Author: Ewan Morrison, 2008.
Genre: Contemporary. Relationships.
Other Details: Paperback. 410 pages.

This is the story of Meg and Tom, a professional couple in their late 30s who share a passionate week in New York and fall in love. When Tom returns home to Edinburgh they decide to embark on a long distance relationship. The plan is that in a couple of months, Meg will fly out to Edinburgh to take the relationship further. Meanwhile, they have to grapple with time-zones and the like. Tom works for an Edinburgh ad agency and drinks too much. He is divorced with a 10-year old son and enjoys a friends-with-benefits relationship with Morna, whose son is best friends with his lad. Meg is a script doctor with aspirations to become a screenwriter. After Tom leaves she spends a lot of time recalling the week with him, writing in her journal and looking over an abandoned screenplay she had written about her history of serial dating disasters.

The couple are both extremely needy, seeming not to be able to go more than an hour without texting, emailing or talking to one another on their mobiles. If they are out of contact for any period of time it is a signal for all kinds of doubt and anxiety. OK, if this had been an angst-filled teen drama I might have been more sympathetic to this kind of insecurity but these two are were supposed to be mature adults. Maybe it is a reflection of modern relationships that I've just not experienced and thank goodness for that!

There are a number of sex scenes in the book as the couple engage in phone and cyber-sex as well as recollections of their week together. I didn't find these erotic, more furtive and somewhat grubby. Even though overall the book counted as a 'fail' for me, there were a few aspects that I did enjoy including the references to popular culture, or when Tom's son suggests he experience Second Life and he is totally lost in the virtual world while his young son is confident or his misadventures with a new mobile phone whose predictive text function completely messes with his head and results with his accidentally sending a series of bizarre messages to Meg. Still these were little flashes of enjoyment in a hard slog through 400+ pages.

Despite the fact that critical reviews for this novel seemed to think it was the best thing since sliced bread, I found it annoying and dull with a pair of central characters who were completely self-absorbed and unsympathetic. I just wasn't interested in their relationship and whether it succeeded or not. I guess it was meant to be edgy and post-modern a la writers like Irvine Welsh, who the author obviously idolised as Tom mentions him and his work often. The critics' praise for Morrison didn't sway me, I found it a mess. So glad I didn't buy a copy.

So why did I bother reading it? Well, it was a selection for one of my reading groups and I felt that in order to discuss it I needed to give it a chance. Overwhelmingly this novel received a 'thumbs down' from the group with only one member giving it a half-way thumb.
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# 16 Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia

(Numbered out of order on purpose. I read The History of Rasselass, Prince of Abyssinia before I read The Map of Love.


The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia


Samuel Johnson




Prince Rasselas lives in a secluded, utopian valley. Every desire, every whim of the inhabitants of the valley, everything they could possibly want is supplied.


However, Rasselas begins to realize that though every care is taken to provide for his pleasure, he is not happy.


He eventually escapes the Happy Valley, along with his sister, Princess Nekayah and aritsan/inventor, Imlac. They travel to Egypt in order to observe how people truly live outside the valley, and to search for they key to happiness.


This was an excellent fable! It speaks to some universal truths and the human condition. Even though it was written in the Eighteenth Century, it is absolutely timeless. I loved it!

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#18 Madame Secretary


Madame Secretary


Madeleine Albright




This was one of the most interesting biographies I've read. NOt only was it fascinating for its behind-the-scenes look at international diplomacy and politics, but Albright was very candid at times about herself.


I could sense that over the eight years she served the Clinton administration, as Ambassador to the UN, and as Secretary of State she gained a lot of confidence.


I didn't always agree with her style of negotiating, which sometimes seemed a bit heavy-handed and hard-line to me. Of course, that's only my own inexpert opinion, which might be entirely different were I privy to the information she was, or were I otherwise in her shoes.


I chose this book specifically for Women's History Month, and I am very glad that I did.

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#19 Walking the Bible


Walking the Bible


Bruce Feiler




With the vague object of grounding his Jewish faith in something more concrete, Bruce Feiler spent a year traveling by foot, 4-wheel drive, boat and even camel searching out locations of various events of the first five books of the Bible.


Whether one is religious or not, I think that almost anyone would get something out of this book. I think it seems to reflect one's own ideas back, not to change them.


What I got from this book would probably be entirely different than someone else would get from it.


Although I already knew, of course, the common roots of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and how these beliefs still very much affect the world today, I still found this aspect of the book quite fascinating. The historical details and their connection with the ancient holy writings, (i.e. the Bible and the Koran), were equally fascinating. It made me not only consider re-reading the Bible, but reading the Koran and The Seven Pillars of Islam by T.E. Lawrence, which was mentioned in the book several times, as well.


The main idea that I took from this book is how religions/beliefs are first formed and then changed over time to adapt to each culture or cultural influence; how each culture creates its own God or gods and rites.


As I said, though, I think that each reader will come away from this book with something different.

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#20 Julie and Julia


Julie & Julia


Julie Powell




Facing 30 with a biological clock ticking loudly in her ears, and feeling a void in her life, New York secretary Julie Powell undertakes a project, hoping to fill the void and quiet the biological clock. In her cramped, dim, Long Island apartment, she is determined to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking within a year, and to blog about the experience.


How could this not be a fun read? I most especially enjoyed the asides and tidbits about Julia Child - and, of course, drooling over the food. :-) (Although, I admit reading about some of the food, the organs, for instance, did gross me out.)


While I appreciated the author's honesty, I was a bit put off by what seemed to me, at times, a lack of maturity. I lost count of how many tantrums she threw, for instance. (She being Julie Powell, of course, not Julia Child.) Still, that's only an impression I got, and I can't imagine that I'd have the patience to throw out a spoiled attempt at a recipe, and start all over again and again.


The author definitely writes with a lot of wit and humor which I really enjoyed.


I own the movie, and enjoy it very much, but, of course, IMO, one must read the book! I got so much more from it.


I dare you to think of Julia Child and not smile. See? Fan or not, (and I'm not a super-fan), it is impossible!


Bon apetit!

did you know you could fly?

(no subject)

Book #14 -- Gabrielle Tayac, Spirits in the River: A Report on the Piscataway People, 64 pages.


This report, written by Dr. Gabrielle Tayac, niece of the current Piscataway chief, for the National Museum of the American Indian, is a basic history of the Piscataway Indian Nation, who are native to Southern Maryland and the DC area. From pre-Colonial times through the near extinction of the tribe and on through its resurgence in the mid-20th-century, this report tells the story of a proud people struggling for existence in a hostile environment. That the Piscataway Nation, which at one point numbered only a few individuals, survived at all and now boasts over 500 members, is an inspiration.

Progress toward goals: 76/365 = 20.8%

Books: 14/100 = 14.0%

Pages: 3252/30000 = 10.8%

2010 Book List

cross-posted to 15000pages, 50bookchallenge, and gwynraven
Jongkey on stage

Book #9: Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

Glass Houses
The Morganville Vampires, Book One
Rachel Caine

My Rating: Four Stars out of Five.

Book Summary:

College should be an exciting time, but for brainy 16-year-old Claire Danvers that's too mild a word. Due to advanced placement, Claire can start college early, but her parents refuse to allow her to go to the distant Ivy League school of her dreams. She goes to Texas Prairie University where she is tormented by the popular girls—but that's the least of her worries. Morganville, home of the university, is also home to vampires and vampire hunters. Claire finds protection from the horrors of the town in the Glass House with three fellow outcasts, Goth girl Eve, rebellious Shane, and Michael, who disappears during the day. Claire falls for Shane and would do anything to protect her friends, including facing down bloodthirsty vampires and dangerous bikers.


Read My Review Here

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